Collective fear stimulates herd instinct, and tends to produce ferocity toward those who are not regarded as members of the herd. Bertrand Russell.
Recently, something happened to a friend whom I’ve known online for many years now. He is of Filipino background and his girlfriend is of Korean background. Anyway, the other day they were just walking around, and some Korean guys came up to them. After telling them that the girl “should” be with a Korean guy, they proceeded to hit him and he walked away with a black eye. I was so sad to hear this.
I’ve been intending to make this post for a while now, but haven’t actually gotten around to it. A while ago, some anonymous commenter made a comment on this blog, saying how they thought it was “racist” the way Asian people tend to “only” socialise and talk to those of the same background as them. Another person commented, saying they didn’t think this was a racist act at all. And it just got me thinking, well… what is racism? How do you define racism? Personally, when I hear the word “racism” I think of discrimination – to me, someone who is racist will, for example, dislike someone merely based on the colour of their skin. What happened to my friend the other day, I would describe as an act of racism – they didn’t know him or his girlfriend from a bar of soap, but placed their judgment on the both of them, simply because of their outside appearances.
After the anonymous comment was made on my blog, I thought about it: ‘is it racist that people “only” congregate and socialise with people of their own background?’. My immediate reaction was “no”. I often think that people do this, simply because it’s more comfortable for them – to be around people who understand them, speak the same language as them and share similar values.
However, I soon realise I also had a very opposing view to that one.
A few years ago, Robert and I lived in Sydney’s Strathfield – a suburb known for its “Korean-ness”. I suppose you could call it a small Korea town. Most of the population are of Korean background. They have very Korean values. Most of the shops are Korean, everyone speaks Korean and everything simply is… Korean! Originally, moving here, I thought it would be great! FOR ONCE in my life, I blended in. On the outside, at least.
It didn’t take me long, however, to soon realise that no matter how alike I looked to the people around me, I still wasn’t completely accepted. And on the other side, I soon came to realise that pockets of society such as these seem to separate from the rest of Australia – they look at you differently if you’re seen with someone other than someone of the same racial background. They’re surprised when you don’t speak the same language, and your neighbours expect you to behave and have the same sorts of values as they do, simply because, on the outside, I look as if that’s the way I should be.
By the end of our time in Strathfield, I was angry, disappointed and upset that I hadn’t been able to fit in there, either. But I was also angry at the fact that they, in turn, didn’t seem to want to be a part of Australian culture, either. I began to wonder about racism and the bigger role it plays in western countries such as Australia and the US. It seems so easy for me – to see a group of Korean people in the city and think it’s OK that they decide to remain mostly with other Korean people. But looking at the bigger picture, I felt as though the pocket of Korean people in Strathfield shunned the rest of Australian society and the Aussie way/s.
It made me beg the question: why are you here? If you are so set on turning the rest of the world to your values and your ethnic morals, then why move to a different country at all? And this was exactly what I found myself asking when I heard about what happened to my friend over the weekend. When you move to a country like Australia or the US, surely you must be aware of the fact that there will be many people of many different backgrounds, hence, people are bound to fall in love with people of varying racial backgrounds.
Clearly, I am very divided and confused about the lines we draw between racial background and the way/s we relate to others.
Racial difference frustrates me. It’s easy for us to say race doesn’t matter – that we don’t see people for the race they are. And yet… it does matter – it greatly influences the people we are today, the values we place on different elements of life and it sets us either apart from people or it unites us. However with the difference, comes racism and discrimination. It’s too easy for people to develop judgment and thoughts based only on people’s outside appearances. As an adoptee, that is something I am constantly struggling with, because what I am on the inside doesn’t match what I am on the outside. How can we, as adoptees, easily be comfortable and reconciled about who we are when our whole beings and existences are contradictory? Will I ever be OK with the fact that I am a square peg trying to fit into a round hole? I simply wish I knew…